HIV/AIDS starts to reveal itself
Since 1984, 8,000 cases of people living with HIV and AIDS have been registered in Ecuador, with women increasingly among those infected.
In response, UNICEF-supported public service announcements on radio and television are now advising pregnant women in Ecuador to take a free, voluntary HIV test. The PSAs stress that with timely testing and treatment, mothers can prevent transmission of HIV to their children.
Broadcasters throughout Ecuador are airing the PSAs, which were donated by advertising agency and UNICEF partner Norlop JWT. Well known radio personality Diego Oquendo, for example, has expressed great satisfaction at being able to help convince more Ecuadorian women to be tested for HIV and has offered a permanent spot on his station for airing the messages.
The PSAs are part of the Campaign for the Prevention of Vertical Transmission of HIV/AIDS, which encourages free, confidential HIV testing and counselling. The campaign was launched by the Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF and other partners.
The initiative has already raised HIV/AIDS awareness in Ecuador, where the average number of monthly HIV tests conducted on pregnant women nearly doubled by the end of 2006. As of October, 170 pregnant women had tested positive for HIV and 148 were undergoing treatment – thereby reducing the number of Ecuadorian children likely to be born with HIV.
“I strongly believe that the intervention of the private sector – the publicity agency donating the creativity and the media airing the radio and TV spots – were the key to success,” stated UNICEF Ecuador External Relations Officer Consuelo Carranza.
Human milk bank
UNICEF has also sponsored the creation of a human milk bank in the Isidro Ayora maternity unit in Quito. The milk of the HIV positive mother will be pasteurized before the baby consumes it. In this way breast feeding is promoted and the newborn has access to natural and complete nutrition. The intention is to continue creating milk banks in other maternity units throughout the country.
UNICEF sponsors the compilation of information produced by various institutions, and, together with other organizations, works to make children a priority in the national strategic plan for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in 2005-2015. It also lobbies for the design of public policies for prevention of HIV/AIDS and assistance to affected children and families. Its main concern goes to AIDS orphans, and to the painful daily life led by families who care for children affected by the virus.